As the evening sun set, seven J5 vehicles entered Maiduguri state from neighboring countries, carrying a total of 350 passengers, including adults and children, women and men. The passengers were visibly exhausted, having spent the entire day on the road. As they disembarked from the vehicles, each person stretched and yawned, the weariness evident on their faces.

Among the passengers was Kaltum, a fifteen-year-old girl. She had a particularly challenging journey, suffering from motion sickness during the car ride and cramped into a corner with swollen legs.

While waiting for her grandmother, who had stepped behind a tree to relieve herself, Kaltum overheard two young men talking behind her. They were discussing the passengers, referring to them as refugees. The tall young man questioned the origins of the travelers and where they were headed, expressing disdain for what he perceived as people willing to endure hardship in search of a better life.

The short man, Gajeren, explained that these travelers were indeed refugees on their way to Sudan, from where they planned to cross into Saudi Arabia. He criticized them for their desperation and the risks they were taking on the journey.

Kaltum couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation, and the young men noticed her beauty as they spoke. The tall man remarked on her attractiveness, wondering aloud if she was also headed to Sudan.

Gajeren informed him that Kaltum was not traveling to Sudan but had joined their group in Suba, a place where they often encountered new travelers. He emphasized that many of these individuals were motivated by greed and an inability to tolerate poverty in their home countries.

Tears welled up in Kaltum’s eyes as she listened to their conversation. Overwhelmed with sorrow for her own circumstances and the hardships she faced, she felt a deep sense of empathy for her fellow travelers.

The two young men approached Kaltum, greeted her, and inquired about her name, origin, and destination. However, she remained silent, tears streaming down her face.

Seeing her distress, the short man offered advice, suggesting that as a young Muslim girl, she should reconsider the perilous journey to Mecca through Sudan. He emphasized the importance of staying in her home country, near relatives, even if she was an orphan.

At that moment, Kaltum’s grandmother’s voice resounded as she called out for her granddaughter, pulling her away from the young men. She scolded Kaltum for speaking with strangers who were attempting to dissuade her from the trip.

Kaltum tried to explain herself, trembling with fear and shock. She clarified that the young men had approached her, and she hadn’t initiated the conversation.

Her grandmother, Goggo Fattu, reacted with anger, scolding Kaltum and raising her hand as if to strike her. Startled and fearful, Kaltum backed away and crouched down, sobbing.

The young men intervened, defending Kaltum and chastising her grandmother for forcing her into this journey. They warned her of the consequences and urged her to treat Kaltum more compassionately, as she clearly did not want to go on the trip.

Goggo Fattu, alarmed by their words, quickly left the scene, and the young men returned to their group. They threatened to report her mistreatment of Kaltum to the NAPTIP agency, responsible for protecting children’s rights, if necessary.

Performing ablution and praying, the travelers then had their meals, which consisted of various foods like bread and soup, soaked cocoa powder, sugar and peanuts, and a flour-based drink mixed with sugar and water.

Around 8 o’clock in the evening, they resumed their journey towards the town of Gamborin Gala, but they had yet to arrive at their destination.

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